Consumers seem to have their demands lined up pretty neatly. They want health and indulgence, quality and low prices, and they also want to be wooed with new varieties while having familiar favorites to fall back on. To consumers, these numerous and even clashing demands make perfect sense. To bakeries, they require a juggling of innovation and tradition to create a product that is both new and familiar.
“We find that most consumers like their pastries to have traditional flavors, such as fruit and chocolate,” says Carolin Fransson, international product manager for Lantmannen Unibake, Horsens, Denmark. “To make the products interesting and new, we work hard on finding the right flavor combinations and making our products visually appealing. Also, you should be able to see what you get by looking at a product, therefore, most new launches are open product where you can see the filling.” The company has started to feature large fruit inclusions in its pastries, which creates a more natural apperance and complements the natural colors and flavors the bakery uses.
This focus on natural products dovetails nicely with the recent push by consumers for more healthful foods. Although sweetgoods don’t have the health claims of a whole apple or a bowl of bran flakes, the category remains a popular breakfast choice.
“Despite the focus on health, we do not see a general decline in sales of Danish pastries,” Fransson says. “Indulgence is also a strong trend that can live alongside health. Giving yourself a treat once in a while can be a part of a healthy lifestyle.”
Audie Keaton, vice president, Skinner Baking Co., Omaha, Neb., attributes some of his rising sales figures to increasing at-home eating. Instead of grabbing a pastry with that to-go coffee, it seems consumers may be eating a pastry at home before buying that morning cup as a means to save a few dollars.
“What we’ve seen is that consumers are trading down–the data supports that,” Keaton says. “Instead of eating out more often, people are staying in. That Sunday breakfast at IHOP is now a cinnamon roll at home with the family. And I think that’s where a lot of our increased sales have come from.”
But although sales of sweetgoods are up, both Lantmannen Unibake and Skinner are taking the health trend seriously. Lantmannen has cut the salt content of its products and is working on reducing saturated fat.
“I would say we are making changes towards healthier Danish pastries but without compromising on product quality,” Fransson says.
Skinner is moving to address the high fructose corn syrup flare-up that has resulted in many consumers avoiding the sweetener.
“There are so many trends that come through the baking industry, whether it be trans fats, saturated fats, etc., but I do think that this one’s here to stay. I think it’s something that all bakers are going to have to deal with, and we’re taking steps right now to prepare for that,” Keaton says.
But he warns that bakeries can’t just focus on the hot consumer trends in order to win sales.
“I think there’s a big opportunity within the in-store bakery right now–we’ve got a lot more potential clients that are shopping in that area,” Keaton explains. “We really need to take a look at quality, at what sells the product–not one or two times, but 10 or 11 times. I think some are getting that and some aren’t. As a manufacturer, everyone wins if we can perceive and move and bring value in the in-store bakery to a new level.